Can Absentee Voting be Rigged?
Because of Covid-19, there has been an unprecedented increase in the number of absentee ballot requests, with some states evendebating whether to only allow mail-in ballots for their upcoming elections.Critics of absentee voting often use the argument that it is an unsafe system,open to voter fraud or other forms of election rigging.
Voter fraud is a serious issue, and critics are correct tobring up the possibility whenever a new election method is discussed. However,there is some misinformation regarding the voting risks associated withabsentee voting.
Absentee vs. Mail-in Votes
One of the criticisms has to do with the distinction betweenabsentee votes and mail-in votes, with critics arguing one or the other hasbetter or worse security. This argument largely comes down to semantics and haslittle to do with actual voter fraud. For the most part, absentee and mail-invotes are considered the same thing. The specific difference is some statesonly allow absentee votes if you are physically not present in the state, whilemail-in votes are available to residents who are within the state, but unableto physically cast a vote due to other obligations or illnesses.
Critics argue their chosen method is better than the other,which is open for voter fraud, because of a difference in security. In reality,election officials use the exact same verification process for absentee andmail-in votes. If you are comfortable with one voting by mail option, thenthere is no reason to place doubt on the other.
Voting Multiple Times
One of the biggest concerns about mail-in votes is voterscan register for an absentee ballot, but also cast a vote in person, allowingthem to get their vote counted twice. While this is a valid concern, it is byno means a new idea. When the idea of voting by mail was first introduced, oneof the first issues the government had to solve is the potential for duplicatevotes. There have been methods in place for years to ensure voters are onlylimited to one vote, whether they are attempting to cast multiple ballots byusing mail-in options or by going to multiple in-person stations to voteseveral times.
The reason election officials are not worried about voterfraud from the same voter casting his or her ballot multiple times is due tohow easy it is to detect. Normally, serious cast of voter fraud involveschanging someone's vote or voting on the behalf of a different person. The samevoter voting multiple times is not as serious because anyone who is thinkingabout committing voter fraud knows he or she will be caught if he or sheattempts this method.
In 2016, there were less than ten examples out of over 100million votes of someone voting twice in the election. Looking even furtherback, from the 1980s onwards, there are no examples of any election, large orsmall, where multiple ballots were cast by the same person.
Absentee Ballots and Deceased Voters
Another argument absentee voting critics commonly invoke hasto do with deceased voters casting ballots. This comes from a study in 2016,which reported nearly 2 million deceased voters who had previously registeredfor absentee ballots still received a ballot through the mail. While thisreport is true, it has nothing to do with voter fraud. Instead, the report washighlighting why it is important to update voter databases. While the ballotsdid go out to deceased voters, there is no evidence to show any of thoseballots were cast.
Another misconception regarding deceased voters casting aballot has to do with the time of death. In most states, absentee ballots goout much earlier than the normal voting deadline. This allows voters to haveenough time to vote and for election officials to receive and process the vote.As a result, there are examples of absentee ballots coming in early, only forthe voter to pass away before the official election day. In the past, this hasresulted in red flags. However, there is a system in place to catch theseballots and compare when the vote was cast versus when the voter passed away.These examples are also uncommon, with only a few hundred cases occurring in anelection.
In terms of absentee voting, the biggest risk of fraud comesfrom manipulating the votes. Manipulating votes occurs when someone other thanthe voter takes the ballot and casts a vote. With mail-in votes, this typicallyoccurs with the fraudulent voter stealing the ballot right from the mailbox.Another example is voters casting a ballot, but the ballot is then destroyedbefore it is accurately counted.
One of the ways states counter voter manipulation is byrequiring a signature. In some states, you are also required to submit a copyof your ID when you register to vote, to prevent someone from stealing yourpersonal information and registering to vote on your behalf. Absentee ballotsare also sent out early so if you have not received yours in a reasonable time,you can contact your election office to request a new ballot.
While these are the most common examples of voter fraud,they still do not frequently occur. Between 2000 and 2012, there were less than500 examples of absentee ballot voter fraud, out of billions of votes.